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Just dropping by ... Teach kids to be mental warriors

Yevet Tenney Published on 30 April 2013

I just finished re-reading “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen. I read it several years ago, but my son was reading it for his reading class so I decided to read it with him. If you haven’t read “Hatchet,” you should. It’s a great book.

It is about Brian, a 14-year-old boy whose plane crashes, and he is left alone in the Canadian forest for several months. He only has a hatchet and the clothes on his back. He learns through trial and error how to survive.

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Of course, it is not a true story, but it is based on true events. I was impressed at the way Brian learns to survive in an extremely harsh environment. It took both physical and mental fortitude for Brian to survive.

We, as parents, don’t know what our children will have to face in the future, but we know they will not live in a world like we did. They already live in a different world. They have cell phones, computers, video games and instant gratification.

Most have never had to do any manual labor. They have never had to grow their own food or gather firewood. Most have grown up with dishwashers, vacuums, microwaves and garbage disposals. Some have never even gone on a camping trip.

I wonder if they would have the mental fortitude to survive in a world without machinery. I even wondered about myself, but I have developed some skills over the years that have helped in times of crisis. These are skills we should diligently teach our children.

First, teach your children to be mental warriors. Mental warriors are not people who are argumentative or fight against the status quo. They don’t carry chips on their shoulders or snarl at every problem that comes along. Mental warriors are people who can control their own minds.

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They recognize that the mind is like a stage. A wise man I know said: Thoughts, like actors, enter and exit. You are the director. You decide which actors will stay to play the scene – and who will be kicked off the stage.

Many people allow every thought to be played out on the stages of their minds without any thought of control. They travel from one thought to another as the world around them changes. Their minds are like wild horses – munching from one plot of grass to the next, shying away from every new challenge, driven by fear.

The horses’ needs are met and time passes, but the horses aren’t very useful. If, however, you put a bridle on those horses and train them by directing their courses, you can help them find the best patches of grass and the best watering places. In other words, the horses become useful, even powerful against fear and problems.

How do you teach mind control? There are several strategies, but I will only name a few. Continuing with the analogy of the mind horse, you must first catch and bridle that horse. That means spending some time monitoring your thoughts to find out where they are traveling.

If it helps, make a mind journal. Ask yourself, “What did I think about during the last hour? How many times did my thoughts travel to one thought or another? Did I worry about something? Did I get angry at someone or something? Did I spend some time beating myself or someone else up? Did I spend some time swimming in the quicksand or playing in the mind bogs?”

If you are going to have the horse of your mind healthy and free to gallop over the prairie and drink at the best waterholes, you had better steer clear of the bogholes. A boghole is a place where a horse can get stuck in the deep mud – and without help, the horse will die.

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It is like quicksand without a bottom that sucks the life out of its victims or allows them to starve to death struggling to get free. What are some bogholes that can trap the mind? The definition of a mind boghole or quicksand is any place where the mind travels in a circular pattern.

Worry can be a mind bog. It is unproductive and steals precious time. Worry can lead to depression and failure. It also blocks the wonderful power of faith. Fear and faith cannot co-exist. One cancels out the other.

Worry is dangerous but certainly is not the worst boghole. There are others. A boghole of the mind can be too much media stimulus. I am not talking about an occasional movie, a chat on the phone or text message now and then.

I am referring to phone or iPad in hand 24/7, or the constant background noise of the media droning away. I am talking about the levels in a video game or Facebook activities that steal away time in a virtual world that leaves nothing tangible to cling to. I am talking about any kind of addiction to the virtual world that steals creativity by numbing the mind to reality.

One of the worst boghole addictions of our time is lust. Lust is a killer because it takes over the mind in slow, subtle ways. No one monitors our thoughts, so we can be free to visualize whatever we want. No one will ever know.

The sleazy, shadowy actors steal their way onto the stages of our minds and play out sordid scenes in vivid detail. They demand gratification. These thoughts lead to pornography and infidelity. They lead to drug addiction and violent acts.

These lust-filled actors are not content to play innocent scenes of puppy love; they demand, each time they enter, to play more seductive and lascivious scenes. They give the mind an insatiable appetite for more and more of the fruit that will never satisfy.

How do we avoid these bogholes? We must bridle our minds. We must want to be in control of our thoughts. We must banish the actors that enter our mind stages uninvited and replace them with the actors we want to play the scene. Of course, that is easier said than done.

There are a few steps we can take:

1. Set goals and have dreams. Visualize them and see yourself accomplishing those goals and dreams. Invite those actors to play the scenes you want to see in your future. The more detail you can see, the more real they become, until you find yourself living your dream.

I don’t know how it works, but in some wonderful way, those positive thoughts of faith will bring what you truly desire or what you visualize. On the other hand, it will also bring all the negative things you visualize or allow to be played on the stage of your mind.

2. Ponder the trappings of success. In other words, read and study the lives of truly successful people. What did they do? How did they overcome obstacles? Spend time memorizing quotes of success, particularly the scriptures.

Consider the promises of God. Make them part of your makeup. Go to sleep with them threading through your mind. Wake up with them shaping your day. When your mind wants to travel to the bogholes, allow those scriptures or God’s promises to lead you in the opposite direction.

3. Learn to sing hymns and patriotic songs. This may sound strange, but music is a great deterrent to those shadowy sordid actors who sneak into your mind. If they come, start singing a hymn in your mind.

I believe hymns and patriotic songs are prayers that can fill our mind with the spirit of God. It is difficult to have lascivious thoughts if we are entertaining angels.

4. Learn to pray. We are counseled to pray always. Why do you think the Lord would want us to do that? It is difficult to get stuck in mind bogholes if we are communicating with the very being who knows where all the bogholes are. Let the Lord be the rider of your horse and faith be the bridle. He will guide you always.

5. Learn that problems are designed to teach us how to be strong. Consider what you have learned about yourself in a crisis. You had to think and make decisions.

You had to communicate with others, and often you prayed more fervently than you have ever prayed. The tougher the crisis, the more you have the opportunity to learn to survive.

Brian in “Hatchet” survived, because his English teacher told him to control his mind from negative thoughts. He said, “Stay positive and stay on top of things ... and get motivated.” Our children are facing a world where they will have to survive.

They must be able to be mental warriors. They will have to fight for their very existence because the world is a dangerous place, full of bogholes of the worst kind. PD

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